I will be traveling this week and next.  I will try to provide new content on Tuesdays and Fridays as usual, but may miss the mark.  Since I haven’t written a new piece for today, I am copying my 350 word columns that I write for the Madison Record, in Madison, AL.  Posted in chronological order.  Don’t worry, there are only six -.  Enjoy.

7.21.12

We had traveled as far as the gazebo in downtown Madison when the question was asked, “Daddy, can we have our headphones?”We have a rule; their headphones are only to be used during long trips, or semi-long trips, depending on our need for adult themes. “Yes,…” and the other words I said after that, which, I assure you, were packed with fatherly wisdom, were drowned out by squeals of delight and chatter about which animated creature they would quote word-for-word for the next hour, defeating the purpose of headphones.

The truth is we were traveling a “semi-long” distance for a week long get-a-way in Guntersville. We enjoy traveling with our kids. It is our hope that exposing them to different scenery, situations, and special events will give them a healthy respect for all “walks” and ways of life. It isn’t about where we stay, the distance traveled, or how long we’re gone, for us, it’s about experiencing the world together in new and different ways.

This trip was all about fishing. Our girls, thanks to their Uncle and gullible bluegills, love to fish. Mae, our older and wiser child, knows how to hook her worms and enjoys throwing the fish back after I “de-hook” them. Haze, on the other hand, loves nothing more than to cast her line, say “I got a big fella”, call us over, and laugh while we take the seaweed off the hook.

I understand that my role on the dock does not include fishing; I am there to make sure eyeballs don’t get hooked, worms aren’t eaten (by humans), and lines are untangled in a timely manner. But, this time I did get a chance to cast my line, waggle the lure, and pretend I have what it takes to land a “big fella”.

What happened?

I slapped my lure on the water to get the seaweed off, tangled the line, created knots around the lure, and, while trying to undo the mess, hooked myself, and wished our kids were wearing their headphones. Maybe I’ll talk about it more on the drive home.

7.14.12

It was the perfect Saturday morning. We, the adults, had gulped our requisite pot of
coffee, warm breakfast filled our daughter’s bellies, and there were no set plans for
the day, with the exception of going to the Madison City Farmer’s Market.

It is one of my favorite outings with the family. A chance to: meet the people who
provide our food, bump into neighbors, stop and leisurely talk with people you
pass by at quickened paces while leaving the “Y” or super markets, and overall, an
experience for our kids to become even more apart of the community they live in. It
was also a necessity after our garden was sprayed with fence stain.

“Dad, we just passed the farmers market! What are you doing?” Mae has been,
well, dramatic lately, and it was every bit evident in the panicked statement that
flew out of her mouth as we passed Discovery Middle School. She thought we
were “faking her out”, that we weren’t really going to the Farmer’s Market, that we
had tricked her into going to “Secret Shot Saturday” at the hospital.

“We’re going to the bank first, then, oh wait, there’s a yard sale.” Sputtered out of
my mouth while turning around safely to peruse someone’s driveway for hidden
treasures. Moans and groans filled the car, moans and groans that turned into huffs
and puffs, and eventually sad stares out of the window while a five-minute ride to
the Market turned into a half-hour tour of people’s yards, and a visit to the bank.

We finally arrived at the Farmer’s Market with our cash, cloth bags, half smiles,
and hunger. We weren’t there but two minutes when the beaming-life smiles that
started the trip returned to their faces. With fists full of carrot bread, plastic glasses
teeming with fruit juice, and their eyes mesmerized by tie-dyes, they had forgotten
all about our journey.

“Daddy, I just love the Farmer’s Market. We should come like every day.”

“Even if we get side-tracked on the way here?”

“Daaaad.”

Quit talking and enjoy their high spirits.

She really wanted this picture with sausage on her thumb

6.9.12

“Duv.va.va.Duvlin Park.” Mae was adamant,  I tried once more “Dub. bu. bu. Dublin
Park.” My attempts at getting our five-year old to correctly pronounce the name of our
local park were fruitless, and of no consequence.  We were on our way to the castle
play area at Dublin Park, where we climb towers, jump on dolphins, and play hide-and-
go-seek; a great energy sapper before long car rides, afternoon errands, or any time
where “worn out” children are more manageable than the “wound-up” variety.

The typical necessities for our morning activity were packed, and then, on a whim,
I tossed my frisbee golf discs in the back of the car.  Would they? Could we? I was
excited at the mere thought of playing a hole or two with Mae and Haze.  I remember
talking to a friend, prior to either being born, and sharing with him how certain I was that
I would be able to play with a six month old strapped to my back, they’re now five and
two years old, it didn’t happened. My back thanks me.

We arrived at the park, shuffled past the play area, I threw my first disc with our girls by
my side, and then it was Mae’s turn.  She rocked back-and-forth, swinging her arm
while holding the disc, tossed her disc, surprisingly straight, and we walked the fifteen
feet to throw it again.  For twenty minutes, and three holes, I was in bliss. We were
playing frisbee golf together! How was Haze’s experience? She enjoyed munching
cheddar bunnies, watching rabbits, and helping her Dad find his discs. Mae’s
attention waned, Haze wanted to spin in the tire, and I was satisfied with their first disc
golf outing.

We all have passions; endeavors that excite us, activities we are good at. Sharing our
passions with children, not only enriches our understanding of what excites us, but
passes down a piece of ourselves that they will always remember. Plus, I got to hone a
craft I enjoy with two people I love.

5.26.12

“Dad, we should totally go to Rainbow Mountain today.” Who could argue with that,
especially when it pours from a five year olds mouth with the same enthusiasm
that “Honey, we should totally get that outdoor storage bin.” flies out of mine.

We eat, brush, pack-up and go. It is rare that it occurs as smooth as that, and yes,
getting dressed is somewhere in the middle, right next to taking off the princess
dresses, for the third time, but we make it out the door. Remembering that the glass
recyclable drop-off is on the way, I pack up our old garbage cans of bottles, and we
pull out of the garage.

The drive to Rainbow Mountain is filled with excited talk of unicorns that have no
horns (bouncing horses) and climbing “our” rock, perhaps, it is “your” rock too, but
Mae and Haze lay claim when we are there. We drop the glass off, which makes
more or less noise depending on my level of frustration that day, and head up to our
morning’s highlight.

Springtime turns fall’s transparent forest into a lush, encompassing, sea of leaves
and branches. We weave our way through its maze; spend moments at the park,
and head into nature. After a quarter mile of hiking, with Mae leading the way,
she hesitates and then stops, Haze, mimicking her every move, does the same. I
ask, “What’s wrong?” She says, “I’m scared. We may see something that will ‘get us’.”
I explain that we are in nature, Daddy is here, yet, you have to be aware. With this
she turns to Haze and says “Haze, you don’t have to be scared, we’re in nature, can
you find a bird?” I couldn’t have been happier.

Many of the things we fear, tend to be things that we can’t see, or even explain. You
do have to be aware of potential threats in this world, but it is important that your
fears don’t get in the way of enjoying life, and certainly something as wonderful as a
walk in the woods.

5.19.12

We, my daughters and I, split our weekday outings between the things that I want
to do, what needs to be done, with the places they want to go, places that are fun.
Fortunately, there are times our worlds collide; all three of us can be found happily
making goofy noises in the echoic entryway to the Post Office. Try it sometime, and
if you have seen a Dad with his two little girls yelling “echo” while you walk-by to
deliver this-and-that to here-and-there, that’s us.

One stop we make, more often than my wife would prefer, is to one of the areas
many thrift stores, gold mines for the treasure hunter and budget shopper alike.
The girls have become quite good at asking to touch things, we haven’t broken
anything yet, and exercising patience while their Daddy looks through, behind,
under, and on top of everything in the store. Mae has allergies and leaves with a
two-hour sneeze; it’s a sacrifice for potential gold, or a sucker at the counter.

Last week, we came upon a true treasure, three unopened boxes of records. Of rec-
whats? I know, the ancient form of playing music. I didn’t own a record player, but I
love music and enjoy a surprise in a sealed box, so we bought them. What a surprise
we found; countless classic rock and country records in pristine condition. With no
idea what I was really looking at, I researched record etchings, “pressing wax”, and
category numbers, while explaining to the girls why sometimes men wear make-up,
thanks KISS, and gasped when clumsy two year old feet nearly danced on “Thriller”.

Without digging through the past, my present hobby wouldn’t exist, and my new
knowledge wouldn’t see the future. If we limit ourselves to what is new, and
disregard what was, we can’t understand how things got to where they are. I hope
that my kids, and their generation, will study history and make the future better
than the present. Though, I am finding that the sound of an MP3 has nothing on
vinyl. Sometimes, the past is sweeter.

5.12.12

‘What are we doing today Dad?’

Our 5-year-old daughter, Mae, has come to expect that Saturdays be
filled with adventure. If we aren’t shopping for local produce at the Farmers
Market, we are enjoying the Mill Creek Green Way, or taking in the beauty
on Rainbow Mountain. A Saturday at home is a rarity, and would mean
someone was sick or severe weather imminent.

She shot me a quizzical look when I said ‘We’re heading out to celebrate
Earth Day.’ I’m sure she was wondering if there would be suckers, face
painting, or a bouncy house involved, but shrugged her shoulders and got
her sandals on without comment, her 2 year old sister followed suit.

We made our way to the festivities in our Prius, after throwing our cloth
bags and organic snacks in the trunk. Doing our part?

As we drove to where the festivities were being held, I imagined that we
would spend the day learning about the importance of cleaning up litter,
planting trees, and otherwise discovering ways to preserve our earth. Why
haven’t I succumbed to the fact that our kids want to, well, be kids?

Reality looked a little different than my ‘daydream’. I’d try to pull them to a
display about organic vegetable gardens; they’d pull harder to the hot dog
stand. We’d stop to learn about cleaning up our rivers, they saw a green
light to the face painting station. We spent the day in a tug of war between
our desires to teach, and their innate need to have fun. The girls enjoyed
playing with their new ‘friends’, everyone is a friend to kids under the age
of seven, and we met strangers, perhaps future friends. We managed to
pepper in lessons about our responsibility to take care of the earth, but
mostly enjoyed the day with members of our community.

On the way home I asked the ‘Dad’ question, ‘So, what does Earth Day
mean? What did we celebrate?’ I answered my own question in my
head, while they looked out the window in their pre-nap stooper. I tried
again. ‘Did you guys have fun?’ I lifted my voice this time in hopes of
eliciting a response. Mae seemed a bit put out by the question, huffed,
and said ‘Dad, it was awesome. Do we have to have ‘quiet time’ when we
get home?’ Haze added ‘No quiet time, I don’t want quiet time.’ and put on
her best pout while losing her gaze out the window.

I wanted to dig deeper, but after considering their age, and understanding
her answer, I drove home pleased with our Saturday Adventure.

Earth Day, taking care of the earth, and understanding the importance
of sustainable living isn’t only about the car you drive, where you get
your vegetables, or what you bring your groceries home in. Earth day
is also about the importance of knowing the people you share the earth
with, developing a relationship with your neighbors, and yes Mae, having
an ‘awesome’ time. For, the more we know about those we live with, enjoy
our time with them, and appreciate the common space we share, the
more likely we are to keep our surroundings clean, and beautify them for
future use. Much like our relationship with nature, our relationship with
one another is about balance, and balance typically brings about positive
outcomes.

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